Uranium Released by Fracking May Pollute Groundwater

natural gas drilling ahead sign photo

photo: Nicholas/Creative Commons

Another twist in the Marcellus Shale natural gas fracking saga: Scientists from SUNY Buffalo have found that the hydraulic fracturing process can release uranium naturally occurring in the shale and that it may pollute groundwater. Lead researcher Tracy Bank, an assistant professor of geology at the school, says,

Marcellus shale naturally traps metals such as uranium and at levels higher than usually found naturally, but lower than manmade contamination levels. My question was, if they start drilling and pumping millions of gallons of water into these underground rocks, will that force the uranium into the soluble phase and mobilize it? Will uranium then show up in the groundwater?

The short answer to all those questions is yes.

Banks notes,

Even though at these levels, uranium is not a radioactive risk, it is still a toxic, deadly metal. We need a fundamental understanding of how uranium exists in shale. The more we understand how it exists, the more we can better predict how it will react to fracking.

I wonder if the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security will still call fracking opponents environmental extremists after this...

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More on Fracking:
Are Pennsylvania's Fracking Opponents Really Environmental Extremists? Police Think So
Fracking Is Finally Getting Some Attention and Regulation
ProPublica on Fracking, the Marcellus Shale and Natural Gas
PA Homeland Security Spies on Anti-Drilling Activists, Reports to Drilling Company

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